PALM BEACH GARDENS — A new construction project at Downtown Palm Beach Gardens means people won’t just be shopping or dining at the 49.4-acre town center.
They’ll be living there.
New plans for Downtown include a 174-room hotel, 280 apartments and an eight-floor parking garage that would stand next to the existing parking garage on the site of the existing Cheesecake Factory restaurant.
Complex switches toward residential from reliance on retail, restaurants
The application to the city of Palm Beach Gardens comes as the complex at PGA Boulevard and Alternate State Road A1A finishes a different construction project that added a parking garage, stores and landscaping.
It represents push by the development to stay relevant as shopping centers struggle across the country due to the rise in online shopping and coronavirus-related closures.
Experts predict 25% of malls will close permanently by 2025, and the Downtown has its fair share of retail-shopping competition. It’s due west of the Gardens Mall and 10 miles north of the Outlets in West Palm Beach.
Kevin Mysliwiec, a senior director at ShopCore, the Chicago-based company that owns the Downtown complex, called the plan “the pinnacle” of the company’s plan for the transformation of the property.
“When (Downtown) was conceived, it was a heavily retail and merchandise center,” he said. “To maintain a successful and thriving center, there needs to be some transformation.”
The change in market needs and the rise of online shopping led to a “shift to experiential living and lifestyle elements,” he said. Armed with amenities that promises to attract young people to the development, designers want the final phase of construction to start in the next year.
But shoppers and nearby residents shouldn’t expect more construction cones yet. Although the rezoning requests received unanimous approval Thursday night, the specifics of the renovation need several more approvals from the city.
New apartments at Downtown Palm Beach Gardens
The pivot to residences at Downtown was approved by the City Council along with three other requests from Excel Gardens LLC that address rezoning and the replacement of an existing building.
The new plan includes replacing the Cheesecake Factory building and the area north of the restaurant next to the existing parking garage with an eight-story residential tower.
The tower will include mostly one- and two-bedroom apartments with a small number of studio and three-bedroom apartments.
Rental rates for the apartments aren’t included in the plans, but city leaders said they’re unlikely to be affordable for people who will work in the area.
“I know that this project has no workforce housing,” Council Member Mark Marciano said Thursday. “This area is going to need workers and the rental units there are really not accessible to the typical wage worker.”
ShopCore didn’t respond to Marciano’s comment, but the council member said the city is working with applicants in other areas to address workforce housing shortages.
The new location is one block from Mira Flores, a 352-apartment complex where rent for a one-bedroom unit starts at $1,874 per month and rent for a three-bedroom unit starts at $2,496 per month.
Next to the apartment building will be a pool and grills for resident use and a residents-only section of the parking garage, the plans show.
Hotel and outdoor dining at Downtown
The new vision for the area also adds more space between the buildings for outdoor dining and walking between buildings. Developers hope a larger area with sidewalks, curved streets and textured pavement will encourage cars to drive slowly through the area and around pedestrians.
Closer to the movie theater, the new construction plans show a replacement of the Texas De Brazil building with a nine-floor tower.
The first level of the tower will be reserved for retail and restaurant space, the second floor would be reserved for office space, and the rest of the building would be an Aloft hotel — a new division of Marriott International — with 174 rooms.
The movie theater will stay, but CMX Downtown at the Gardens 16 will lose 774 of its 2,474 seats, according to the plans. The complex would keep all 16 screens but have fewer seats — although larger and more comfortable ones — in each theater.
Downtown growth and change
Downtown Palm Beach Gardens has been slowly reinventing itself since 2003, when it changed its commercial and restaurant layout and completed a parking study.
More recently, the council approved the addition of a 118,862-square-foot LifeTime Health Club and parking garage in 2019. Construction on those facilities will be completed by the end of 2021.
The shopping center currently is relocating its carousel to its lakefront and upgrading the landscaping. That project should be done by the end of the year, according to construction plans.
Surrounding the new location of the carousel, the plan includes two new dog parks that will be open to the public and upgrades to the event lawn on the water.
Council members appeared happy with the third phase of redevelopment and the plan to provide living space at the mall.
“This is bigger and better,” Council Member Carl Woods said of the plans. “This has a ‘Wow!’ factor.”